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Popzara Interviews: Freelance Illustrator Jim Moore
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Popzara Interviews: Freelance Illustrator Jim Moore

Our fine-line chat with freelance graphic illustrator Jim Moore on mobile design, teaching, and being the eternal student. Sharpen your pencils!

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The world of freelance graphic design and illustration is tough as it is already, but surviving in an industry that’s always on the move is another thing entirely. One man who’s been doing just that is Jim Moore, having made his decade-long career in developing character design and artwork in projects that range from Star Wars to Spyro the Dragon. Most of you reading this may be most familiar with his design contributions for developer Villain LLC’s hit iOS games Archetype and Minions, but there’s 

From compromises in mobile development to teaching his craft across Europe, Moore’s been kind enough to answer a few of our genre-spanning questions about his successful career in freelance design. With approachable good humor, he shares his thoughts on the emerging world of mobile game – and artistic – development, the pace of technology, and even offering several hints for budding artists hoping to make their way in this unpredictable market. From student to teacher and back again, it’s a compelling read for anyone who might have thought being an illustrator for a living meant punching the office timecard.

Check out our official review of Villain’s Minions for iOS devices right HERE!

Thanks for speaking with us today, and at this point it’s customary to let the guest share a little bit about themselves for those who might not be as familiar with their work. Care to spill the beans about who you are and what you do with our readers?

My pleasure, Nathan. Well, as mentioned, my name is Jim Moore and I’ve been creating art for the entertainment and publishing markets for the last 10 years or so. I’ve mostly worked in games since graduating from RSAD in 2000, working on Star Wars games at a smaller company called Factor 5. Since 2008, I’ve been freelancing out of my home in the bay area of northern California.

It was actually your character and design work for mobile developer Villain, LLC that first introduced me to your work, particularly with their games Archetype and Minions available on iOS devices. Forgive my ignorance, but have you designed similar creations for other developers/games, and how did your partnership with Villain come about? Will we be seeing even more collaborative efforts between you two?

Actually Archetype was my one of my first forays into iOS gaming. Previously I’d done character design primarily for consoles, and honestly not a lot of iOS games were attempting that type of experience at the time, so I’m happy to have contributed.

I actually was introduced to their art director, Tim Nice, through a mutual friend. We’re now working on our third project together so I guess it’s been a success, although I’ve never actually met him since he’s working out of his office in Colorado.

One thing that really impressed me about your designs for both games is that, apart from the fact they’re both first-person shooters, the two look nothing alike; one featuring cyborg-like mechanical warriors and the other soft and squishy cartoons.

I’m curious how much leeway you were given in creating each game’s unique aesthetic, and what your inspiration was for each. For whatever reason, I can’t help but see a little bit of Ubisoft’s Raving Rabbids and Despicable Me in your Minions designs – which is a compliment. What this an intentional nod to either of them?

Yes, in both cases I was approached with a strong direction in mind, so it was really a matter of bringing the AD’s vision to life. One of the nice things about my experience with Villain has been that they’re really not afraid to explore many looks and genres, which is unusual for a small company.

Going back to your character designs for Archetype, I read that you’ve bemoaned the technical limitations of the iPhone platform in the past, and instead focused on finding what you called “a middle ground between being shackled by poly counts and joint limitations” and “the crazy machinations of the concept artist” to get the best results.

Given the tremendous advancements in Apple’s mobile platform, as well as other mobile tech, do you see this becoming less an issue with your future designs?

It’s really amazing to see the progress that’s been made on mobile gaming over the last several years. It’s essentially the last 40 years of console gaming history being repeated, but compressed into 6 or 7 years. I don’t see any reason that mobile gaming won’t continue to continue to mature and evolve, and hopefully as that happens, the art will follow as well.

I’m sure the budding artists and graphic designers out there reading this would love to know what your standard arsenal of tools is for creating your designs. Any chance you’d be willing to give away a few of your secrets for creating the perfect images?

Well that would make for a much longer interview I’m afraid. Fortunately there are plenty of sites out there which do a very good job of creating a learning community. CG Society is the one I frequent the most.

However, if there was one thing I could tell artists just starting out, it would be to never stop learning your craft. After you land your first job you may feel that you’ve ‘made it’ and you can relax, but the reality is that you’re in an industry that is constantly evolving and there’s always something new to learn.

Besides being a designer and illustrator, I hear that you’ve also taught art and advised in the past. How did that come about, and are there any plans on returning to the classroom?

Oh yes. In fact I just got back from teaching at The Animation Workshop in Denmark, and I may be teaching a short workshop in Norway next year at HIHM. So I guess the Scandinavians really like me, it would seem. I just have to get used to all the snow..

I was actually reluctant to teach for quite a while but like anything else, you get to a point in your career where you feel like you could stand up in front of a bunch of people and feel like you could actually give them some useful information. Fortunately I had some friends who were teaching at the time, and the opportunity presented itself.

Speaking of teaching, your website used to feature a section called the Freelancers Guide, in which you share wisdom about working in the field and offer helpful advice for others. Now that I’ve got your attention, is there any advice you would give to those would-be designers hoping to make their way in the crazy, unpredictable world of freelance design?

Well obviously, the best place to go for that kind of information is the fabulous font of knowledge that is http://jimsdrawingboard.blogspot.com/ where people can see my latest work, ask questions, and read my various witty comments!

And as it turns out, my next post ( due early next week ) is going to be another Freelancer’s Guide, where I will talk a bit about using your images from finished projects without getting in trouble with the people who commissioned them. And reason I’ll be writing about that is that a project I’d been working for ages, Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure,  has finally been released and I’m now able to show some of the work I did there. It was a great experience on a type of project I’d not really done before, so there’ll be some interesting stuff there. So there’s an exclusive scoop for your readers to look forward to!

About the Author: Nathan Evans